Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Functionality for the Bike Cart

The plan for building a taco cart from a Mercurio cargo bike is coming along. My first task was to decide upon what type of cooking devices that I wanted to incorporate. With an area of only 28 square inches to work with, I needed to find portable devices that allowed a lot of flexibility in a little space.

The first purchase was the Outdoor Chef City Grill 420. It got great reviews and is able to cook both directly and indirectly due to its flip funnel technology. The funnel passes the heat to the grill when set as an inverted "V". Heat is sent to the sides when it is turned over into its "V" position. All this is bundled into a small, light frame.

Now where to put it on the bike. Mounting to the base would take up a lot of space and eliminate most of the storage area. After taking the legs off the grill, I noticed the mount that connected the grill body to the legs. It would be perfect to attach to a frame and suspend it above the cargo area.

Light bulbs started going off, if I could suspend a grill with this mount, maybe there was a way that I could use the same mount to suspend a propane stove top cooker as well. Over the internet, it was hard to figure out the size compatibility of the two devices, but I found the smallest and toughest cooker available, the King Kooker 1205 outdoor cooker, and rolled the dice.

The final procurement of this stage was the taco cooking device. I needed to have this to ensure that everything was going to fit with the mount placement. There was no doubt that it had to be the legend for making tacos, the comal bola arriba (comal with the upward bowl). I had to search no further than our local Mercado Loco for this stainless steel tool.

Once the components arrived, I put together a wood prototype to get a feel for how these items would work together and where their placement should be. I briefly considered mounting both devices, but gave up on that idea as it would provide too much cooking power and not enough work area. They mostly were sitting next to each other to consider sizing of the dual purpose mount.

At this stage, I drew up some plans and consulted with my father-in-law. He has a wicked set of tools, a great supply of miscellaneous aluminum pieces, and the expertise to build things with them. The grill mount went together first. It was relatively easy following the wood model.

The stove top was a little trickier. After cutting the base off, it was an inch too small to fit inside of the grill mount. We ran through some different ideas for broadening the leg stumps to fit correctly inside the mount. Then my father-in-law had a great idea. What if we found a piece of aluminum that would fit on top of the mount and drill holes through it that would fit the leg stumps of the stove top. Like magic, the perfect size piece of aluminum appeared in the scrap pile. From there, everything fell into place.

At last it was time to have a practice run of the new equipment. I grilled some white onion, chicken breast, and arrachera (thinly cut flank steak). Put a tongue in the pressure cooker. After all of this was mostly cooked, I diced everything into tiny pieces. I also chopped up some red chard. The nopales (cactus) already had its needles removed and was cut to the right size.

I set up the bike in the back yard and fired up the stove top cooker for the first time. It was working perfectly.
I put the comal on top and started sweating down the red chard with some chopped garlic and green onion. Also put on a pound of chorizo to see how it would turn out.

After these items got most of the way done, I added the remaining pre-cooked ingredients. It was a beautiful site to see all of those items getting their finish. Once everything is ready, the hot middle part is used to heat up tortillas.

It was surprising how well everything came together. A little fresh lime juice on all of the meats was the only seasoning that I used. Probably will mix in a little more spices next time, but this wasn't bad for the first time.

Looks like the first objective has been met. I already have a few opportunities for practicing away from home at different types of functions in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I think there is only one thing to do, accessorize!